Jacob Myrtue hates losing.
The Schaller-Crestland senior and his teammates found out about losing the hard way last season, finishing in last place in the Northwest Conference with a 2-14 record and a dismal overall record of 5-22.
Myrtue has made sure the summer of 2003 will be much more satisfying for everyone involved with Wildcat baseball, as he is one of the leaders on a Schaller-Crestland squad that has already doubled its winning total from last season and is tied for the lead in the Northwest Conference.
Myrtue is leading the team in virtually every offensive category this season and is one of the ballclub's best pitchers, and Schaller-Crestland co-coach Jeremy Langner said Myrtue's effort this year has been key to the newfound success of the Wildcats.
"His leadership and his hard work to make himself a better player hasn't just helped himself but it has helped the entire team," Langner said. "He's been a major sparkplug for us."
The fear of losing has been the fuel that has helped the Schaller-Crestland sparkplug shift into overdrive this season, and Myrtue said the motivation to win has been on the hearts and minds of all of the Wildcat players this year, including himself.
"I think our whole attitude has changed from last year," Myrtue said. "Everyone worked hard in the offseason and came in with a lot more determination this season, and I think that's really been the main thing in why we're winning more this year."
Myrtue has used his bat to display his determination on the field this campaign, as he is pacing the team at the plate with a red-hot batting average of .455. His 30 hits this season include seven doubles and one home run, and he has collected 21 runs batted in, with many of those hits coming in critical late-inning situations. Myrtue has also helped his team out on the basepaths, swiping five bases this year to put himself in scoring position for his teammates.
Myrtue said his patience at the plate against opposing pitchers has helped him move his batting average from around .300 last year to the .450 neighborhood now.
"I guess I'm just seeing the ball better this year," Myrtue said. "I'm trying to wait for pitches I can hit instead of trying to hit every pitch in sight, and that's helped me a lot."
Myrtue has also been a leader for the Wildcats on the mound, as he has a 4-0 record this season, with all four of those victories coming against Northwest Conference foes. A two-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio (29-to-14) has helped Myrtue record a 2.70 earned run average in 31 innings of work, a dramatic improvement from last season, when his win total on the mound equalled zero.
"You'd never think it seeing him throw this year, but he had never won a baseball game as a pitcher before this year," Langner said. "It's great to see, because he's throwing strikes and maintaining great control, and that is what it takes to be successful on the mound."
"I'm not overpowering, so I have to be able to hit spots, and that's what I worked on a lot during the offseason," Myrtue said. "I think I can throw a little harder now, but it's really important for me to have control and put the ball in the right spots."
An All-Conference selection as a second baseman last year, Myrtue now patrols the shortstop and third base positions when he is not pitching, and is part of a veteran infield that has come up with a number of sparkling defensive plays this season.
Those webgems have helped the Wildcats pick up wins with regularity, and Myrtue said he is thoroughly enjoying the view from atop the conference.
"It's definitely better than being last," Myrtue said. "Anything is better than being last."